Work safely

How to stop dust killing your forklift

Forklift truck engines naturally pick up dust and dirt from the surroundings and floor – causing poor fuel economy, reduced reliability and high engine wear. What can be done?

You wouldn’t think something as tiny as dust could stop a forklift in its tracks, but it does. Dirty engines get choked up, causing serious issues like:

Engine wear

A clogged engine wears out faster, as millions of tiny particles grind away at the bearings, pistons, cylinders and valves – that means more breakdowns, more downtime and more parts to buy. In fact, some estimates say a clean engine lasts twice as long.

Oil contamination

Dust mixes with oil, and stops it doing its job. Worse, contaminated oil can actually accelerate damage to the engine it’s supposed to protect.

Fuel burning problems

More dust means less air, which affects the engine’s ratio of air to fuel. That makes the engine less fuel efficient, and can also cause harmful emissions.

The cyclone effect

The real problem is, keeping a forklift engine clean is harder than it sounds. Not only do engines take in air as part of the combustion process, but the engine motion itself simply sucks dust and dirt from the floor, like a cyclone vacuum cleaner.

What should you do?

To really fix the problem, you need a combination of measures, working together:

1: Look for high air intakes

It may sound obvious, but look for a truck with its air intakes up high – away from the dust on the floor! Of course, this also puts them closer to the driver’s ear level, so they’ll need to include noise reduction measures.

2: Insist on a cyclone air filter

The best trucks now use cyclone technology to clean the air before it’s used. Unlike conventional filters, these don’t become clogged – which can restrict airflow and make the engine inefficient. They’re longer lasting, too, cutting the requirement for servicing.

3: Ask for Belly protection

The only effective way to stop a working forklift engine sucking up dirt from the ground directly is by fitting a belly plate under the truck (this works much better if the rear wheel arches are enclosed too).
As well as dust and dirt, a belly plate protects the engine against larger items – like pallet fragments and stray shrink wrap – which are commonly found at work, and can do serious damage.

Some forklift trucks, like the Mitsubishi GRENDIA, are already designed to cope with rugged, dusty or dirty environments, so have these features as standard. Others may need them to be added as cost options or custom modifications.
Either way, they’re an essential part of keeping your truck reliable, efficient and hardworking.

  • Action points
  • Dust and dirt dramatically increase engine wear and compromise fuel efficiency, so take action to safeguard your forklift engine.
  • Air intakes should be mounted at a high level, with a cyclone filter to clean the air before it’s used.
  • The engine will suck dust from the floor unless a Belly Seal is fitted. Ensure this also includes enclosed wheel arches.
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